Delta

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Delta awards that originate in Europe have big fuel surcharges, but they can be dumped fairly easily.

The fuel surcharges weren’t much of an issue for most Americans in the past when Delta required roundtrip awards because not many of us book roundtrips originating in Europe. But now that Delta allows one way awards, the fuel surcharges for awards originating in Europe are very annoying. They effectively make it cost-prohibitive to book a one way award from Europe to the United States.

The Problem

For instance this Madrid to New York one way has 199 euros ($230) worth of taxes, fees, and charges.

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That roughly lines up with the taxes and fuel surcharges (194 euros) of a cash ticket.

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But if you book this one way as part of a roundtrip to Madrid, you pay only $91 total in taxes for the entire roundtrip.

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The Solution

The way to fuel dump the one way ticket out of Europe is to add a preceding one way ticket that originates somewhere other than Europe, like the United States.

Go to the Delta Multi-city search page and search for a flight that doesn’t originate in Europe followed by your one way ticket from Europe to the United Staes.

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In the above example, I’ve chose Atlanta to New York preceding Madrid to New York. Yes, back-to-back flights on the award go to New York. I chose this example to show that the preceding flight can really be any flight that doesn’t originate in Europe.

This award booked at 87,500 miles + $68–no fuel surcharges–in First Class and Business Class. That’s 25,000 miles for Domestic First Class and 62,500 miles for Business Class from Europe to the United States.

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It priced as 42,500 miles in economy–12,500 miles for domestic economy and 30,000 miles for Europe to the United States. Again without fuel surcharges.

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Unfortunately online I couldn’t get the computer to price domestic economy plus Business Class returning from Europe. When I selected flights like that, it overrode my selection and put the first flight in First Class.

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The first flight doesn’t need to be a domestic flight in the United States. Here is an example where the first flight is Seoul to Tokyo, which by the way, is dirt cheap at 7,500 miles one way.

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The award prices at 37,500 miles + $88 in taxes–again, no fuel surcharges.

The Problems with the Solution

The big one: If you don’t fly the first flight, your entire award will be cancelled. Pick a first flight you actually need.

Smaller one: Domestic First Class on most routes is not worth double the price of economy, but I couldn’t price out domestic economy for the first flight plus international Business Class home from Europe. I suspect you could price this out correctly by phone. I further suspect the agent’s computer would spit out the taxes without fuel surcharges for the entire award, and the agent wouldn’t even notice that you just dumped over $200 in bogus fuel surcharges.

Hat Tip for this trick to reader John who came up with it while playing around with a Delta award he was booking.

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Pay your award taxes and fees with the Arrival Plus then redeem Arrival miles to remove the charge.

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Booking First Class or Business to Australia can be extremely challenging.

  • United doesn’t release Business Class Saver space on its 787-9 from Los Angeles to Melbourne and doesn’t have First Class on the flight.
  • United does release some First and Business Class on its 777s from Los Angeles and San Francisco to Sydney. It has released none for November or December 2015.
  • Air Canada (bookable with United miles) releases some Business Class on its 777 from Vancouver to Sydney. It has released one day in December 2015. There is no First Class on the flight.
  • Delta releases almost no Level 1 award space on its flight from Los Angeles to Sydney in Business Class. Delta doesn’t operate international First Class.
  • Qantas releases some space 355 days out to its own mileage program and British Airways, which charges way too many miles plus fuel surcharges for the space. By the time the award space becomes available to American Airlines miles–330 days out–a lot of it is gone. What’s left is cheap though. See today’s full post on Qantas award space.

That leaves Virgin Australia.

There is award space nearly every day between the United States and Australia in Virgin Australia Business Class.

Delta charges 80,000 miles one way to book Virgin Australia Business Class between the United States and Australia, and the award space is searchable and bookable on delta.com.

You can book Delta awards up to 330 days in advance, so you can currently book through December 8, 2015. For the last month until December 8, beautiful late-spring-turning-into-summer days in Australia, there is award space almost every day in Business Class on Virgin Australia flights.

The Space

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Virgin Australia flies to Sydney and Brisbane from Los Angeles, with connections throughout Australia and New Zealand.

Some of the award space pictured is on the direct Los Angeles to Sydney flight, some connects in Brisbane, and some is Korean Airlines award space that connects in Seoul.

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On the return, the taxes vary based on the routing, so just by looking at the taxes displayed on the five-week calendar on delta.com, you can know whether direct award space is available or not.

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The four days highlighted above are the only four days without direct Virgin Australia award space. Those days only have Korean award space.

Australia in a premium cabin is a weird award. It is nearly impossible with every airline and type of miles, but it’s the opposite with Delta miles on Virgin Australia: there’s award space nearly every day, even at peak times. I’ll keep an eye on space for the next few months as the heart of summer 2016 becomes bookable to see if award space is just as plentiful for January and February 2016. I bet it will be.

 

Product

Virgin Australia Business Class is not the nicest in the world, but you’ll hardly be slumming it.

You get a fully flat bed that is 6’2″ long with a duvet and pillow. You’ll have a personal entertainment screen and access to an onboard bar.

Not all seats have direct aisle access, and reports of the food and service are less glowing than Asian airlines, but this a solid Business Class product where you will be able to sleep and entertain yourself on the 14+ hour flights.

Getting the Miles

There are several co-branded Delta credit cards, plus Membership Rewards and Starpoints transfer to Delta miles.

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This blog became famous because I was the first to articulate how to book free one ways on United and US Airways awards.

A free one way is a one way trip to or from your home airport that is tacked onto another award for no extra miles. Free one ways cut your flight bill in half for a second trip without adding to the price of the first trip!

American Airlines killed free one ways on its awards in April 2014 by nixing all free stopovers because free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport. Delta killed its free one ways on January 1, 2015 with the elimination of free stopovers on its awards (though in return, we do now get to book one way Delta awards.)

What’s the current state of free one ways with major frequent flyer programs?

If you get confused during this post, please read my Introduction to Free One Ways.

Alaska Airlines

Free one ways are possible on one way Alaska Airlines awards. That means you can book two free one ways per roundtrip awards.

Alaska has an amazing group of partners:

  • Alaska Airlines
  • Horizon Air
  • AeroMexico
  • Air France
  • American Airlines
  • British Airways (fuel surcharges)
  • Delta
  • Emirates
  • Fiji
  • KLM
  • Korean
  • Qantas
  • Ravn Alaska (flights within Alaska)
  • PenAir (flights within Alaska)

Unfortunately you must book only one partner each one way award (you may add Alaska Airlines flights as well.) And unfortunately most Alaska Airlines awards need to either start or end in the United States.

Abide by those rules, though, and enjoy some amazing free one way opportunities.

For full details, see Free One Ways on Alaska Airlines Awards.

American Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with American Airlines miles. Free one ways always rely on a free stopover at your home airport, and American has eliminated the chance to take any free stopovers on awards.

British Airways

Free one ways are impossible on awards booked with Avios. Every flight on an Avios award has a mileage cost (determined exclusively by its distance and the cabin you book.) If every flight has a cost, there’s no way to get one for free as a free one way.

Delta Airlines

Free one ways are impossible on Delta awards since stopovers were eliminated on January 1, 2015.

United Airlines

Free one ways are possible on both international United awards and awards between the mainland and Hawaii. Free one ways are not possible on awards wholly within the mainland United States and Canada.

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Roundtrip award from Los Angeles to Honolulu with a later free oneway to Newark

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You can either have a free one way BEFORE your main roundtrip award TO your home airport or AFTER your main roundtrip award FROM your home airport.

United’s routing rules are pretty lenient for free one ways. You can do some amazing backtracking. You can also do “cheap one ways” where you fly the extra leg to a distant land and pay far fewer miles than you “should.”

For full details, see Master Thread: Free One Ways on United Awards.

US Airways

Free one ways are possible only on international US Airways awards.

US Airways only allows one stopover OR one open jaw on awards, and you ordinarily need both on a free oneway. Because of this limitation, free one ways are only possible on US Airways awards:

  • before your main roundtrip award
  • to your home airport
  • with a corresponding dummy leg(s) to where the free oneway began
  • after the main award
  • within 24 hours of landing at your home airport

That might sound a little more complicated than it is. Check out Master Thread: Free Oneways on US Airways Awards for an easy explanation.

While American and Delta killed its free one ways recently, and free one ways have never been possible with Avios, free one ways are still possible on awards booked with United, Alaska and US Airways miles.

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December 31, 2014 is the last day to book a free stopover on a roundtrip Delta award. That means it is the last day to book a free one way on a Delta award.

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January 1, 2015, stopovers will be eliminated on Delta awards. Free one ways require a stopover at your home airport, which means that free one ways will be eliminated. Here are the awards I am most looking forward to booking one way.

Overall I think this trade off is good because Delta miles have access to the worst award availability, making one way bookings even more valuable than they would be if space were more plentiful.

Today and tomorrow, book your roundtrip Delta awards with a stopover for travel through November 2015. Here are the rules for free one ways on Delta awards.

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The Gold Delta SkyMiles® Credit Card is offering 50,000 SkyMiles and a $50 statement credit after spending $1,000 in the first three months.

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 11.55.21 AMBusiness owners can get the same offer on the business version of the card.

Delta Miles

I value Delta miles at around 1.2 cents each. Delta partners release just as much award space as any airlines though Delta itself lags behind.

Delta miles are better than any other miles for Australia in business class and the west coast to Europe in economy or business. Delta miles are also good to Central America, South America, Africa, and Europe from anywhere else in the United States.

At the moment, you have to book roundtrip awards with Delta miles, but starting January 1, 2015, you can book one way awards with Delta miles.

Here are my top choices to burn 160k, 140k, 125k, 92.5k, 60k, and 25k SkyMiles and the products I most want to book when one way awards are possible in less than two weeks.

The Other Big Reason to Get This Card

To earn Delta status, you need to fly a certain number of miles or segments on Delta flights AND pay a certain amount for those tickets. Next year, those dollar requirements are rising.

 

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But as the bottom of the chart notes, spending $25,000 on a Delta co-branded card in a calendar year waives the Medallion Qualifying Dollars requirement, leaving just the miles or segments flown requirement.

(As you can see on my chart comparing airline credit cards, the United card has a similar feature but it only waives the requirement up to the second-best status, while the Delta card spending waives the requirement all the way to Diamond.)

For people who fly a lot of cheap flights, the ability to spend a little over $2,000 per month on their Delta card to waive Delta’s expensive MQD requirement is welcome.

Remember

American Express recently changed its rules, so that you can only get the bonus on personal cards once in your lifetime, so if you’ve ever gotten the sign up bonus on the Gold SkyMiles card like I have, this offer is of no use.

Bottom Line

This is a solid offer, but not as valuable as 50,000 American Airlines miles or US Airways miles because of the difficulty of finding Delta award space and its inflated award chart. The listed expiration date of this offer is December 21, 2014.

Hat Tip Doctor of Credit

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American Airlines, United, Delta, and US Airways all release several co-branded credit cards with various benefits, bonuses, and fees.

I have attempted to summarize the following cards on one table for easy comparison:

I consider these to be the “basic” personal card for each of the four legacy carriers in the United States. Each airline also has a lower-tier cards which earn miles at a lower rate and come with no sign up bonus. And several of the airlines have higher tier cards that come with gigantic annual fees and even better benefits. But these are the four basic cards.

  • Which cards have the best sign up bonus?
  • Which have the best benefits?

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Delta had already released its 2015 award chart for travel beginning in the United States (exlcuding Hawaii) and Canada, and now Delta has released SkyMiles Award Charts for 2015 from all other parts of the world.

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The current award chart controls for awards BOOKED in 2014, and the 2015 chart for awards BOOKED in 2015, regardless of when the flights are flown.

In addition to new award charts, we will see two major rule changes on Delta awards for awards booked January 1, 2015 or later:

The award charts reflect only minor changes from the 2014 chart, so don’t expect to find a big devaluation.

I scoured the new charts looking for creative, cheap awards, and I found a few.

  • What are the best deals on the new 2015 SkyMiles charts?

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As widely predicted, Delta is eliminating stopovers on its awards starting January 1, 2015. Its SkyMiles program rules page says as much.

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This is a bummer, but the good news is that one way awards will be bookable with Delta miles starting January 1, 2015, and Delta has already improved its online search.

American eliminated stopovers on awards this year, and the US Airways program will cease to exist in quarter 2 of 2015, which means United will be the only American program that allows stopovers very soon. We’ll see how long that lasts.

Your last chance to book a Delta award with a stopover will be December 31, 2014. At that point, you can book an award through about November 2015.

Hat Tip: Lisa in the comments

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An actual improvement to delta.com!

Previously, you could search award space one month at a time with a calendar on delta.com, but that calendar only took into account award space on Delta flights. Because much of the Saver award space available to people with Delta miles is available on partner airlines, that meant that in practice, you really had to search delta.com one day at a time to get the full picture. See “A Major Problem with Delta.com and the Only Solution.”

The nearly useless delta.com used to display

Now, multi-day award searches can display a grid of +/- 3 days, and do take into account partners. This is a big improvement in my mind. It will certainly save me a lot of time when I am booking awards for clients of my Award Booking Service.

  • How does the new delta.com search work?
  • What airlines are searchable on delta.com?
  • Why should you still call in to book most Delta awards?

Off peak awards allow us to stretch our miles further by booking discounted awards to select regions during certain pre-determined dates. Off peak awards are offered by several airlines, and this post will put all the off peak awards I know of in one place.

While off peak awards are often less desirable dates, there are some off peak dates that are actually my favorite times to visit a country. For instance, March is a fantastic month in Argentina, and you can book an award to Buenos Aires or Bariloche every March for 10,000 fewer American Airlines miles than if you travel in July, a worse time to visit in my opinion.

Bariloche, Lake District of Patagonia, in March

American and US Airways have set off peak awards every year to select regions. Air France Flying Blue and Lufthansa Miles & More have discounted awards that are kind of like off peak awards. United and Delta occasionally have award sales that are like off peak awards, but are not as regular as American and US Airways’ off peak awards.

  • What are the off peak awards offered by American, US Airways, Delta, United, Lufthansa, and Air France?
  • What dates are they offered?
  • Do you have to fly the airline offering the deal or can you fly a partner?

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Delta has an award sale for economy awards booked by November 3, 2014 and flown between December 3, 2014 and February 18, 2015 within the United States, Caribbean, and Americas.

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The discounts are nice, especially to Southern South America (Chile, Argentina, Brazil):

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There are a ton of restrictions:

  • Blackout dates: December 19 through December 24, 2014, December 26, 2014 through January 5, 2015, January 16, 2015, January 19, 2015, February 13, 2015 and February 16, 2015
  • Blackout cities: Caracas, Venezuela; Cancun, Mexico; and Rio De Janeiro, Brazil
  • Minimum Stay: Tickets to/from Brazil, Argentina, and Chile require a 7-day minimum stay.

Notably I don’t see a restriction that you must fly Delta metal, so the same deal may be available on awards on Alaska Airlines, AeroMexico, and Aerolineas Argentinas, the three key Delta partners in these regions.

  • What are the best deals?
  • What about stopovers and free one ways?
  • Where can you search the relevant Delta partners?
  • What is the award space picture on Delta flights?
  • Why would I consider flying a Standard (ie not a Saver) award during this sale?

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Update 11/6/14: Delta.com is again displaying Alaska Airlines and Virgin Australia award space. The disappearance must have been a glitch. Bookmark this post in case the glitch recurs!

Delta.com is no longer displaying award space on Alaska Airlines or Virgin Australia. You can search for award space on both airlines on other websites and book it by phone with Delta.

Virgin Australia Business Class

Delta.com is pretty terrible. It shows very few Delta partners, requiring me to search for award space for clients of the MileValue Award Booking Service on airfrance.us, Expert Flyer, or by phone.

Even the partners Delta.com does show usually don’t show up on the calendar of results, so it looks like the month only has Standard and Peak award space when partner space exists that always prices at the Saver level. (What am I talking about? Read this post, and thank me later.)

In the last few days, Delta.com has stopped displaying Virgin Australia and Alaska Airlines award space. This is a big blow for the average member of SkyMiles.

  • Virgin Australia has the best award space of any airline to Australia in Business Class. It is bookable for 160,000 Delta miles roundtrip.
  • Alaska Airlines has solid award space to Hawaii and Mexico (not great uses of SkyMiles) and to West Coast gateway cities for international award flights.

The silver lining of making award space harder to search is that it becomes more plentiful for those of us who know where to search for it. You can join that group right now.

  • Where can you search Alaska Airlines award space?
  • Where can you search Virgin Australia award space?
  • How do you book the award space you find?

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Update 11/17/14: To book a stopover on an international award, you need to call Delta because the functionality has been removed from the website. I speculate that starting 1/1/15, Delta awards will not allow stopovers.

One Mile at a Time reports that Delta has stealthily eliminated stopovers on awards.

That’s not quite correct, but something very fishy is going on. Here’s how I know it is not true.

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Above is a roundtrip award from Washington DC to Los Angeles. On the outbound, there is a one week stopover in Minneapolis. The award prices at 25,000 miles + $16.80, which is the same miles as it would cost without the stopover in Minneapolis–hence a free stopover. (This is $5.60 extra in taxes than if you didn’t stop in MSP.)

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But he does a larger point that many awards are not pricing with a free stopover when they should.

  • A look at the evidence
  • Delta’s explanation
  • What’s the deal?

I get a ton of requests at my Award Booking Service for people who want to fly from the United States to Australia or New Zealand over Christmas and New Year’s with their frequent flyer miles. Usually the request is to fly in Business or First Class.

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I want to dissuade you from this goal because it is one of the toughest awards to book.

Last month I wrote “The Easiest Places to Get with Miles.” Miles are awesome and can get you almost anywhere in the world cheaper and more luxuriously than most people realize. But some awards are easier to book than others. Focusing on easier awards, especially at first, can get you some award-ticket “wins” that will hook you and lead to more successful bookings in the future.

Trying to book two people from the United States to Australia in Business Class from December 21 to January 3 is very hard to turn into one of those wins. It will mainly lead to frustration.

  • What is the award space picture to Australia this holiday season with American, US Airways, United, and Delta miles?
  • What is the most likely strategy to find award space?
  • What other times of year does Australia have better award space?

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According to Delta’s website: “Round-the-World Award Tickets will not be issued on or after January 1, 2015.” (Hat Tip Delta Points)

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I called Delta at 800-323-2323 to ask about booking a RTW award, and the agent said that it was just announced today to representatives that RTW awards would no longer be bookable starting January 1, 2015. She said it was a short communique announcing their demise.

I mused aloud, “I wonder why,” to see if she had any insight into the thinking. She didn’t, replying with “I wonder too.”

Delta RTW awards are a specialty of the MileValue Award Booking Service, and a good value since they were untouched by last year’s double devaluation of the Delta chart.

I”ll give a brief rundown of the rules and prices for Delta RTW awards, so that you can book or plan one before the January 1, 2015 ticketing deadline.

  • What are the rules for a Delta RTW award?

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